Noy Chanthalangsy is manager of KoJa Kitchen, one of about 80 restaurants in Fresno partnering with the Uber Eats restaurant delivery service.
Written by David Castellon
Every month, thousands of people in the Fresno area get on their cell phones to order a ride from Uber drivers to take them to restaurants across the city.
Now those customers can skip a trip to a restaurant and instead have Uber drivers pick up their food orders at local restaurants and deliver it to their home, workplace or hotel room.
Uber Technologies, Inc. recently announced that Uber Eats had started in Fresno, the latest of about 120 cities around the world — 40 of them in the U.S. — offering the digitally-based transport service’s food-delivery service.
Company officials held a press event to announce the launch at KoJa Kitchen in Fresno, one of about 80 restaurants in the city partnering with Uber Eats to offer the delivery service.
And plans are in the coming months to increase the number of partner restaurants, which range from fast food establishments that include McDonalds, to casual dining that includes Pacifica Pizza to various ethnic and high-end establishments and even food trucks.
For now, the service is limited to just the Fresno city limits, but that could expand if enough restaurants in outlying areas or other Valley cities that could include Visalia, Hanford, Madera and Clovis ask to partner.
“We definitely need a cluster to make the marketplace work. We can’t just expand one [restaurant] at a time,” said Clay Carroll, general manager for Uber Eats in Fresno.
As for the drivers, those already using their cars to transport people can choose to also do food deliveries, or people can sign up to take just Uber Eats calls.
While food delivery is nothing new — as restaurants have been doing it on their own for decades, and private restaurant delivery services have been around since the 1980s —Carroll said his company’s service offers a higher level of convenience than most of those other services.
The way it works is that customers can go online to www.ubereats.com or use a downloadable app on their smart phones and tablets in much the same way they order rides from Uber.
Individual restaurants also may post links to Uber Eats on their websites.
Once on the site or app, people can look up particular restaurants partnered with Uber Eats or search restaurants based on types of cuisine and then look at their menus.
Customers can click on the dishes and drinks they want to order, type in the delivery addresses and pay with a credit card. Those orders then are sent to Uber Eats tablets at the participating restaurants, while Uber dispatches drivers to pick up the food at those restaurants and deliver it, Carroll explained.
A $6.99 “booking” fee — which varies by city — is tacked onto the Fresno restaurant bill by Uber, which also keeps 35 percent of the cost of the food as its fee from each restaurant.
The idea is that what restaurants lose from each bill would more than be made up by increases in delivery orders, Carroll said.
A recent order of a Big Mac meal on Uber Eats came out to $14.43. While that may seem a lot — the total bill would be $7.44 if you physically went to McDonald’s — Carroll said “There is a lot of demand for a platform like Uber Eats.”
He said the company began experimenting with food delivery a couple of years ago in Toronto, Canada.
“We definitely see it increases the customer base — to expand to a customer base they wouldn’t otherwise reach,” which includes people not inclined to go out to eat or pick up food on their own and those unable to do so, he said, though he offered no statistics to support his claim.
Among the U.S. regions where Uber Eats is offered are New York, Los Angeles, Houston and the Bay Area. The latter area is where eight other restaurants in the KoJa Kitchen chain are located.
Noy Chanthalangsy, manager of KoJa’s Fresno restaurant, said he has been told that other restaurants in the chain have partnered with Uber Eats, and it brings in additional business. In fact, he said the manager of the San Francisco restaurant urged him to partner up with the service when the Fresno restaurant opened Jan. 1, but that didn’t happen, as Uber Eats wasn’t offered here yet.
Now that the service is here, “We will connect with our customers at a different level,” Chanthalangsy said.
“Sometimes, customers don’t always want to come out [to eat]. They can use Uber Eats to get food delivered to their doors.”